Clark in line to play tall role for Pack
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Wide receiver Michael Clark gave up basketball to chase his football dream in college.
The road led him all the way to Lambeau Field for his NFL debut Saturday night.
With injuries taking a toll on the Packers’ receiving corps, Clark could get more chances to make an impression on coach Mike McCarthy when Green Bay wraps up its season on Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
“It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for this to happen,” Clark said.
The 6-foot-6 Clark played in 12 college basketball games as a freshman in the 2014-15 season at St. Francis of Pennsylvania, a small school in the Northeast Conference. But football, a sport he hadn’t played since his freshman year in high school in Tampa, Florida, kept tugging at Clark.
So he gave up his basketball scholarship to play football and landed at Marshall. He got reacquainted with the sport while redshirting in 2015 before debuting in 2016 with 37 catches for 632 yards and four touchdowns.
With a year of eligibility remaining, Clark decided to take his sparse resume and turn pro. Clark went undrafted but landed with the Packers. With his size, Clark stood tall but he didn’t immediately stand out.
“It was foreign. Just words,” Clark said of the playbook. “All that stuff blew past me. I couldn’t keep up in meetings. Just found myself spacing out a lot. I couldn’t keep up at all.”
Once Clark caught up, his skill came to the forefront. He made some splash plays in training camp but failed to make the roster and toiled for most of the season on the practice squad. Clark was added to the active roster on Dec. 1 and played in his first game against the Vikings.
With star receiver Davante Adams inactive with a concussion and veteran receiver Jordy Nelson lost late in the first half with a shoulder injury, Clark wound up getting extensive playing time. He was targeted a team-high nine times, catching three for 36 yards. Quarterback Brett Hundley turned to Clark in key spots, with a pair of third-down passes and three more on fourth down.
“I’ve been with Brett since camp, building his confidence in me and making plays,” Clark said. “Everybody sees me making plays, so who wouldn’t want to throw it to me?”
With his size, Clark makes for an inviting target.
“Just a big dude,” Hundley said. “He’s just a good receiver. He’s been busting his butt for the past year and he’s developed every day, every week, and I cannot wait to see what he brings this week and what he turns into this year.”
Clark figures to play a key role this week against the Lions. Adams remains in the concussion protocol, and McCarthy said it will be tough for Nelson to return this week.
Fourth receiver Geronimo Allison sat out Thursday with an illness. Tight end Richard Rodgers (shoulder) also appears unlikely to play after he missed a second straight day of practice.
With so much talent potentially sidelined for Sunday, Clark might be line for more targets in Detroit. He’d like to use a strong performance as a starting point for next season.
“If you’re not confident in yourself, I wouldn’t be here,” Clark said. “Stuff like this doesn’t happen by accident. I had confidence in myself, I knew I could do it and that’s what I did.”
McCarthy said that rookie tight end Emanuel Byrd, who was elevated from the practice squad this week, will be active against Detroit on Sunday.
Guard Jahri Evans (knee), running back Aaron Jones (knee) and linebacker Nick Perry (ankle/shoulder) also each missed a second day of practice Thursday.
SERIES RECORD — Packers lead 100-69-7
LAST MEETING — Lions beat Packers 30-17, Nov. 6
LAST WEEK — Packers lost to Vikings 16-0; Lions lost to Bengals 26-17
AP PRO32 RANKING — Packers No. 21, Lions No. 17
PACKERS OFFENSE — OVERALL (25), RUSH (18), PASS (23)
PACKERS DEFENSE — OVERALL (22), RUSH (20), PASS (22)
LIONS OFFENSE — OVERALL (13), RUSH (32), PASS (6)
LIONS DEFENSE — OVERALL (27), RUSH (17), PASS (28)
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Lions trying for first sweep of Packers since 1991 season. … Both teams eliminated from playoff contention. Both made it last season, and their matchup to end regular season decided division.
… Packers started this season 4-1 but are 3-7 since loss to Minnesota in which QB Aaron Rodgers was injured. Brett Hundley, who replaced Rodgers, has thrown for eight TDs with 10 INTs.
… Green Bay’s Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones form only rookie pair in which each player has at least 400 yards rushing and at least four TDs rushing.
… Packers WR Davante Adams is tied for second in NFL with 10 TD catches. … Green Bay LB Blake Martinez leads NFL with 136 tackles.
… Detroit’s Matthew Stafford is third in NFL with 4,123 yards passing and has seven straight seasons with at least 4,000.
… Since 2015, Lions’ Theo Riddick is only RB in NFL with 1,500 yards receiving and 10 TD catches. … Detroit hasn’t had 100-yard rusher since Reggie Bush had 117 on Thanksgiving against Green Bay in 2013.
… Lions CB Darius Slay leads NFL with seven INTs.
Fantasy Tip: Detroit’s anemic running game is generally worth avoiding, but if you must consider RB from Lions, rookie Tion Green has played more prominent role lately and may receive more extensive look in largely meaningless finale.